Archives for category: District of Columbia

This link will take you to interviews conducted by ABC’s WJLA in the District of Columbia.

Three police officers and the chief of the D.C. Metropolitan Police describe what happened on January 6.

One of them was dragged out of one of the Capitol entrances and beaten with his own baton.

Another was crushed inside a door and nearly had an eye gouged out.

They describe a mob that was bent on mayhem and destruction. They describe a mob that wanted blood.

What you will hear is the voices of men and a woman sworn to uphold the law and to protect the Constitution.

They risked their lives for us.

The Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance is led by Professor Paul Peterson, an advocate for school choice. It would not be off the mark to say that PEPG exists to promote the DeVos agenda. Soon after she was confirmed, PEPG invited her to speak, and her speech was disrupted by Harvard students not affiliated with PEPG. Peterson has been the mentor for a generation of pro-school choice academics, including Jay Greene (University of Arkansas, Department of Education Reform), Patrick Wolf (same, also served as “independent evaluator” of Milwaukee and DC voucher prigrams), and Martin West (Harvard Graduate School of Education). Peterson recently appeared at the White House to support Trump’s call to reopen schools and co-wrote an oped with Dr. Scott Atlas (both are senior fellows at the rightwing Hoover Institution). Dr. Atlas supports Trump’s views that mask-wearing should not be mandatory, that children and adolescents don’t get the virus, th ast schools should reopen without delay, and that lockdowns are unnecessary. In many articles about Dr. Atlas, Peterson is his reliable defender.

The event today asks whether teachers unions can be part of the solution. Michelle Rhee and George Parker. Parker was head of the Washington Teachers Union when Rhee was chancellor. When he stepped down, he went to work for Rhee. He now works for a charter school lobbying group. More than 90% of charters are non-union.

Fall 2020 Colloquium Series: Can Teachers Unions Be Part of the Solution?

The PEPG Colloquium series continues Thursday, Sept. 24, with “Can Teachers Unions Be Part of the Solution?,” a talk by Michelle Rhee, Founder and CEO, StudentsFirst, former Chancellor for District of Columbia Public Schools, and George Parker, Senior Advisor, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, former President, District of Columbia Teachers Union.

Thursday, Sept. 24
12-1:15 p.m.
Register to attend the Zoom webinar

Richard Phelps was in charge of assessment in the last year of the reign of Michelle Rhee as superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools. In this post, he describes how difficult and time-consuming it is to identify test cheating and how little the D.C. leadership cared about making the effort. Phelps was supposed to monitor test security and expand testing.

He writes:

The recurring test cheating scandals of the Rhee-Henderson years may seem extraordinary but, in fairness, DCPS was more likely than the average US school district to be caught because it received a much higher degree of scrutiny. Given how tests are typically administered in this country, the incidence of cheating is likely far greater than news accounts suggest, for several reasons:

· in most cases, those who administer tests—schoolteachers and administrators—have an interest in their results;
· test security protocols are numerous and complicated yet, nonetheless, the responsibility of non-expert ordinary school personnel, guaranteeing their inconsistent application across schools and over time;
· after-the-fact statistical analyses are not legal proof—the odds of a certain amount of wrong-to-right erasures in a single classroom on a paper-and-pencil test being coincidental may be a thousand to one, but one-in-a-thousand is still legally plausible; and
· after-the-fact investigations based on interviews are time-consuming, scattershot, and uneven.

Still, there were measures that the Rhee-Henderson administrations could have adopted to substantially reduce the incidence of cheating, but they chose none that might have been effective. Rather, they dug in their heels, insisted that only a few schools had issues, which they thoroughly resolved, and repeatedly denied any systematic problem.

He punctures Rhee’s claim that the test security agency Caveon never found evidence of “systematic cheating.”

He writes:

Caveon, however, had not looked for “systematic” cheating. All they did was interview a few people at several schools where the statistical anomalies were more extraordinary than at others. As none of those individuals would admit to knowingly cheating, Caveon branded all their excuses as “plausible” explanations. That’s it; that is all that Caveon did. But, Caveon’s statement that they found no evidence of “widespread” cheating—despite not having looked for it—would be frequently invoked by DCPS leaders over the next several years.

A decade ago, Richard Phelps was assessment director of the District of Columbia Public Schools. His time in that position coincided with the last ten months of Michelle Rhee’s tenure in office. When her patron Adrian Fenty lost the election for Mayor, Rhee left and so did Phelps.

Phelps writes here about what he learned while trying to improve the assessment practices of the DC Public Schools. He posts his overview in two parts, and this is part 1. The second part will appear in the next post.

Rhee asked Phelps to expand the VAM program–the use of test scores to evaluate teachers and to terminate or reward them based on student scores.

Phelps described his visits to schools to meet with teachers. He gathered useful ideas about how to make the assessments more useful to teachers and students.

Soon enough, he learned that the Central Office staff, including Rhee, rejected all the ideas he collected from teachers and imposed their own ideas instead.

He writes:

In all, I had polled over 500 DCPS school staff. Not only were all of their suggestions reasonable, some were essential in order to comply with professional assessment standards and ethics.

Nonetheless, back at DCPS’ Central Office, each suggestion was rejected without, to my observation, any serious consideration. The rejecters included Chancellor Rhee, the head of the office of Data and Accountability—the self-titled “Data Lady,” Erin McGoldrick—and the head of the curriculum and instruction division, Carey Wright, and her chief deputy, Dan Gordon.

Four central office staff outvoted several-hundred school staff (and my recommendations as assessment director). In each case, the changes recommended would have meant some additional work on their parts, but in return for substantial improvements in the testing program. Their rhetoric was all about helping teachers and students; but the facts were that the testing program wasn’t structured to help them.

What was the purpose of my several weeks of school visits and staff polling? To solicit “buy in” from school level staff, not feedback.

Ultimately, the new testing program proposal would incorporate all the new features requested by senior Central Office staff, no matter how burdensome, and not a single feature requested by several hundred supportive school-level staff, no matter how helpful. Like many others, I had hoped that the education reform intention of the Rhee-Henderson years was genuine. DCPS could certainly have benefitted from some genuine reform.

Alas, much of the activity labelled “reform” was just for show, and for padding resumes. Numerous central office managers would later work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Numerous others would work for entities supported by the Gates or aligned foundations, or in jurisdictions such as Louisiana, where ed reformers held political power. Most would be well paid.

Their genuine accomplishments, or lack thereof, while at DCPS seemed to matter little. What mattered was the appearance of accomplishment and, above all, loyalty to the group. That loyalty required going along to get along: complicity in maintaining the façade of success while withholding any public criticism of or disagreement with other in-group members.

The Central Office “reformers” boasted of their accomplishments and went on to lucrative careers.

It was all for show, financed by Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Waltons, and other philanthropists who believed in the empty promises of “reform.” It was a giant hoax.

Friends and Neighbors,

Join us tomorrow, Saturday, August 22nd from 11:00 am until 12 noon, outside the Chevy Chase, DC Post Office on Connecticut Ave. and Northampton St., NW, just south of Chevy Chase Circle in Washington, DC to show support for:

The constitutional mission of the U.S. Postal Service, including priority for the secure delivery of ballots mailed from state election offices to voters and mailed by voters to their state election offices;

The men and women who sort and deliver the mail;

The immediate halt to the removal and disabling of vital postal infrastructure, including public mail boxes, mail sorting machinery and equipment needed for speedy mail delivery;

The immediate repair and replacement of the above equipment and restoration of overtime;

Immediate passage of the Delivering for America Act & protection for USPS whistleblowers;

The immediate resignation or firing of Postmaster Louis DeJoy.

Please wear a mask; we will observe social distancing.

Teresa Grana & Erich Martel

For other nearby events: https://tinyurl.com/y6n72jym

Nearby events include:

Post Offices in:

Old PO (Trump Hotel), DC 20004
Towson, MD 21204
Columbia, MD 21045
Frederick, MD 21701
Rockville, MD 201851 (Twinbrook PO)
Calvert Distribution Ctr, Riverdale Park, MD 20737
North Bethesda PO, MD 20817 (adjacent to Home Depot)
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Most people thought that the Paycheck Protection Program would help small businesses survive the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. They were surprised to learn that charter schools, which never lost government funding, scooped up some of the $660 billion.

Guy Brandenburg posted the list of D.C. charter schools that picked up some dough from the PPP.

Many of the D.C. charters are backed by the billionaire Walton family.

The Relay “Graduate School of Education” was created by charter schools to train charter school teachers on test-score-raising and no-excuses discipline, while using Doug Lemov’s Bible “Teach Like a Champion.” It’s teachers mostly taught in charters.

Relay is called a graduate school, but it has no research faculty, no campus, no library, and at last review, no scholars or anyone with a doctorate.

Nonetheless, Relay has landed some contracts for professional development in districts run by corporate reformers and Broadies. The chancellor in D.C. is Lewis Ferebee, who previously led privatization efforts in Indianapolis.

In D.C., it does professional development for principals.

One principal in D.C. didn’t like Relay’s philosophy.

She was fired.

Parents were not happy.

Ceaira Richardson recited the challenges that make life in her Southeast D.C. neighborhood difficult.

Grocery options are sparse, making it tough to find fresh produce. Crime rates are higher than in other parts of the city. Keeping children safe is not always easy.

But she feels at ease at Lawrence E. Boone Elementary School, a recently modernized, light-filled campus not far from Richardson’s home. There, her three-year-old daughter is already reading. She senses teachers truly care about her child, so much so that she persuaded family members to send their children to the school.

“I told everybody, ‘Enroll in Boone. Enroll in Boone,’” Richardson said.

In recent months, Richardson and other members of the Boone community have rallied around the school’s principal, Carolyn Jackson-King, after they learned the veteran educator was fired and will not return to the position for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Teachers, parents and some D.C. lawmakers have demanded D.C. Public Schools reverse its decision. Jackson-King and her supporters say she was dismissed by the school system because she resisted teaching practices that educators at Boone felt were militaristic and racist.

“I just feel they attempted to control Black bodies,” Jackson-King said.

Ferebee had no comment.

Do you remember General Tata?

After a career in the military, retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata entered the Broad Academy in 2009, launching a new career. He was soon hired as Chief Operating Officer of the District of Columbia Public Schools, when Michelle Rhee was chancellor. Then on to become Superintendent of Schools in Wake County, North Carolina, where a new school board hired him to dismantle one of the nation’s most successfully integrated districts. He managed to alienate and offend enough people so that the board that hired him was soon swept out by voters.

Mike Klonsky picks up the story of General Tata’s career post-education. As a noted Islamophobe and Trumper, he soon caught the eye of Trump recruiters and is in line for a powerful position in the Defense Department.

Klonsky writes:

FAST FORWARD…So quite naturally, who should pop up yesterday as Trump’s proposed appointee to the third-highest post in the Pentagon? None other than Brig. Gen. Tata himself. The job includes managing policy decisions on everything from Afghanistan and the Middle East to China, North Korea, and Russia, as well as artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons, and more.

Tata would succeed John Rood, who was ousted as undersecretary for policy in February after being viewed as insufficiently loyal to Trump. He could even be next in the line if the secretary of defense and the deputy resigned or were removed.

Only this time, the recommendation caused the shit to hit the fan.

Among his notorious remarks: He called President Obama “a terrorist leader.”

Another notable citizen-rightwing nut job for this itinerant administration.

Valerie Jablow, parent activist in the District of Columbia, posts often about the D.C. government and its passion for giving away public property.

In this post, she questions what happened to the playing field of a Duke Ellington High School of the Arts.

Some time in February, Ellington Field–the field that belonged for most of a century by court order to DCPS’s Duke Ellington High School of the Arts–was officially transferred from DCPS to the department of parks and recreation (DPR). Despite many appeals to the DC city council and to the deputy mayor for education (who has oversight of both DPR and DCPS) explicitly asking for the terms of the use agreement before the transfer and assurance that Duke Ellington high school would have first priority use among all users, no one in the public knows what the terms of that transfer really are; what use of the field the high school (or any DCPS school) is allowed; and whether Duke Ellington will be able to provide credited programming there ever again.

The Ellington transfer happened because Mayor Bowser gave Maret, a private school, exclusive use of a nearby public field, Jelleff. In the wake of public protest against the Jelleff deal, Bowser then transferred Ellington Field from Duke, to make it a public recreation center kinda sorta standing in for Jelleff.

So it was that despite opposition of parents, neighbors, and many others (see here and here for a few), this unprecedented transfer of an asset of a DCPS school, actively used by students, for the immediate and lasting benefit of those not necessarily affiliated with DCPS happened without much fanfare.

A short time later, on the afternoon of March 3, the private Maret school (yes, that same one) was photographed using Ellington Field. On its website, Maret had posted a spring schedule of activities it was hosting at Ellington Field.

All of this was quite some news to Duke Ellington HS staff, who apparently had no idea of Maret’s activities at the field that day beforehand–much less that the field had been, by that point, officially transferred from Duke’s control.

This article by Leslie T. Fenwick, dean emeritus at Howard University, was published in Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog in 2013, yet it remains even relevant today. I was in Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago and was astonished to see the dramatic gentrification of the city. My son was in New Orleans, having left a week before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and he was astonished by the pace of gentrification. More than 200,000 African Americans have left Chicago since 2000. Is the transformation of America’s urban districts, with high-rise condos that sell for more than $1 million and Starbucks and gourmet shops merely a coincidence?

Dean Fenwick prophesied what she saw and was remarkably prescient:

The truth can be used to tell a lie. The truth is that black parents’ frustration with the quality of public schools is at an all time righteous high. Though black and white parents’ commitment to their child’s schooling is comparable, more black parents report dissatisfaction with the school their child attends. Approximately 90 percent of black and white parents report attending parent teacher association meetings and nearly 80 percent of black and white parents report attending teacher conferences. Despite these similarities, fewer black parents (47 percent) than white parents (64 percent) report being very satisfied with the school their child attends. This dissatisfaction among black parents is so whether these parents are college-educated, high income, or poor.

The lie is that schemes like Teach For America, charter schools backed by venture capitalists, education management organizations (EMOs), and Broad Foundation-prepared superintendents address black parents concerns about the quality of public schools for their children. These schemes are not designed to cure what ails under-performing schools. They are designed to shift tax dollars away from schools serving black and poor students; displace authentic black educational leadership; and erode national commitment to the ideal of public education.

Consider these facts: With a median household income of nearly $75,000, Prince George’s County is the wealthiest majority black county in the United States. Nearly 55 percent of the county’s businesses are black-owned and almost 70 percent of residents own homes, according to the U.S. Census.  One of Prince George’s County’s easternmost borders is a mere six minutes from Washington, D.C., which houses the largest population of college-educated blacks in the nation. In the United States, a general rule of thumb is that communities with higher family incomes and parental levels of education have better public schools. So, why is it that black parents living in the upscale Woodmore or Fairwood estates of Prince George’s County or the tony Garden District homes up 16th Street in Washington D.C. struggle to find quality public schools for their children just like black parents in Syphax Gardens, the southwest D.C. public housing community?

The answer is this: Whether they are solidly middle- or upper-income or poor, neither group of blacks controls the critical economic levers shaping school reform. And, this is because urban school reform is not about schools or reform. It is about land development.

In most urban centers like Washington D.C. and Prince George’s County, black political leadership does not have independent access to the capital that drives land development. These resources are still controlled by white male economic elites. Additionally, black elected local officials by necessity must interact with state and national officials. The overwhelming majority of these officials are white males who often enact policies and create funding streams benefiting their interests and not the local black community’s interests.

The authors of “The Color of School Reform” affirm this assertion in their study of school reform in Baltimore, Detroit and Atlanta. They found:

Many key figures promoting broad efficiency-oriented reform initiatives [for urban schools] were whites who either lived in the suburbs or sent their children to private schools (Henig et al, 2001).

Local control of public schools (through elected school boards) is supposed to empower parents and community residents. This rarely happens in school districts serving black and poor students. Too often people intent on exploiting schools for their own personal gain short circuit the work of deep and lasting school and community uplift. Mayoral control, Teach for America, education management organizations and venture capital-funded charter schools have not garnered much grassroots support or enthusiasm among lower- and middle-income black parents whose children attend urban schools because these parents often view these schemes as uninformed by their community and disconnected from the best interest of their children.

In the most recent cases of Washington D.C. and Chicago, black parents and other community members point to school closings as verification of their distrust of school “reform” efforts. Indeed, mayoral control has been linked to an emerging pattern of closing and disinvesting in schools that serve black poor students and reopening them as charters operated by education management organizations and backed by venture capitalists. While mayoral control proposes to expand educational opportunities for black and poor students, more-often-than-not new schools are placed in upper-income, gentrifying white areas of town, while more schools are closed and fewer new schools are opened in lower-income, black areas thus increasing the level of educational inequity. Black inner-city residents are suspicious of school reform (particularly when it is attached to neighborhood revitalization) which they view as an imposition from external white elites who are exclusively committed to using schools to recalculate urban land values at the expense of black children, parents and communities.

So, what is the answer to improving schools for black children? Elected officials must advocate for equalizing state funding formula so that urban school districts garner more financial resources to hire credentialed and committed teachers and stabilize principal and superintendent leadership. Funding makes a difference. Black students who attend schools where 50 percent of more of the children are on free/reduced lunch are 70 percent more likely to have an uncertified teacher (or one without a college major or minor in the subject area) teaching them four subjects: math, science, social studies and English. How can the nation continue to raise the bar on what we expect students to know and demonstrate on standardized tests and lower the bar on who teaches them?

As the nation’s inner cities are dotted with coffee shop chains, boutique furniture stores, and the skyline changes from public housing to high-rise condominium buildings, listen to the refrain about school reform sung by some intimidated elected officials and submissive superintendents. That refrain is really about exporting the urban poor, reclaiming inner city land, and using schools to recalculate urban land value. This kind of school reform is not about children, it’s about the business elite gaining access to the nearly $600 billion that supports the nation’s public schools. It’s about money.

 

Dean Fenwick gave the Benjamin E. Mays Lecture at Georgia State University in 2018.
She comes on at about the 15:00 minute mark, and she goes into detail about the education “reform” movement and its failure to help black and brown children. She calls it “Looking Behind the Veil of School Reform.”